Governor Bobby Jindal's 2010 parish tour -- "Building a Better LA for Our Children" -- stopped in Morehouse Parish today where he addressed the Bastrop-Morehouse Chamber. The Governor's tour will stop in every parish to highlight the significant progress his administration has made to create a New Louisiana that is the best place in the world to raise a family, get a great education and pursue a rewarding career. The Governor cited the BP oil spill, the President's deepwater drilling moratorium and the national economic downturn as challenges for the state, but he emphasized that these challenges will not get in the way of building a better Louisiana because the people of Louisiana will persevere and overcome these obstacles.
At the luncheon today, Governor Jindal joined Congressman Rodney Alexander, Bastrop Mayor Betty Olive and Morehouse Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) CEO Kay King to announce that Morehouse Parish has been awarded a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA). The grant will go towards the development of a new Industrial Park. To house the Industrial Park, the Louisiana Department of Economic Development is working closely with Mayor Olive and MEDC to recruit target businesses from metal fabrication, basic chemicals, agricultural chemicals, and a range of food processing industries. To qualify for the grant, LED has committed $350,000 as a matching grant and the City of Bastrop has committed approximately $125,000.
Governor Jindal said, "During the oil spill crisis, people often asked me if I thought Louisiana would ever recover, would we ever be the same, would Louisiana return to be Sportsmen's Paradise as we have known it? Would communities and families be able to survive these tough times? The question is the same for the national economic recession, will we be able to make it through these challenges? One of the main reasons I came here today is to answer these fundamental questions. If there is one thing you remember from this speech today I hope it is this -- my answer to all these questions is plainly yes.
"I am confident about this because I know the resilience and perseverance of our people. We have overcome hurricanes before, economic downturns before, and there is no challenge too big for our people. We may be fighting in a war to preserve our Louisiana Way of Life today -- but I know we will win this war.
"I know many people are looking at the challenges facing our state and wondering if we will be able to overcome them and leave our children a state even better than it was in our generation. The answer again is yes. Yes, we will absolutely build a better Louisiana for our children."
RESULTS OF BUILDING A BETTER LOUISIANA
Since setting out to create a New Louisiana, the Governor cited a number of facts and figures to highlight the state's strong economic momentum:
* The U.S. Census indicated that Louisiana experienced its third straight year of net population in-migration from July 2008 to July 2009.
* Among all states in the South, Louisiana has had the best job performance since January 2008.
* For the second consecutive year, Southern Business & Development recently named Louisiana "Co-State of the Year," noting that we attracted more significant business investment and job-creating projects per capita than any other state in the South, two years in a row.
* Pollina Corporate Real Estate recently released its rankings of top states for business; and Louisiana earned the first-ever Most Improved State designation based on its improved ranking from 2008 to 2010. In just two years, Louisiana jumped 20 spots in the ranking of best states for business.
Gallup's Job Creation Index for 2009 ranked Louisiana third best among all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
* Moody's Economy.com recently recognized Louisiana as one of 11 states it says are already recovering from the recession.
* According to Portfolio.com, Louisiana fared second best among all 50 states and the District of Columbia during the recession.
Governor Jindal highlighted a number of innovative programs and policies that have been implemented in order to create an environment that fosters growth and opportunity for Louisianians, including ethics reform, lower taxes, revamping workforce development and education reform.
First, the Governor said he worked to clean up Louisiana's historical image of government corruption, and he called the Legislature into special session and asked them to pass the strongest governmental ethics laws in the country.
Governor Jindal said, "We transformed the ethics laws in our state -- rocking to number one in the country on the Center for Public Integrity's ranking for legislative disclosure laws -- up from our near-bottom #44 previous ranking. The Better Government Association moved us from the bottom five to the top five on their BGA-Alper Integrity Index."
Second, the Governor worked to rid Louisiana of a variety of onerous business taxes not charged by other states, taxes that often made Louisiana uncompetitive for new business investment and new, high-paying jobs.
Governor Jindal said, "We cut taxes for businesses. We eliminated the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment. We eliminated the franchise tax on corporate debt. We eliminated the sales tax on natural gas and business utilities. And we passed the largest income tax cut in state history."
Third, the Governor revamped Louisiana's workforce development system. The Governor cited a number of statistics to highlight the importance of having a comprehensive workforce development system.
Governor Jindal said, "We know that over the next five to ten years, most jobs will require more training than high school but less than a traditional four-year college degree. Yet, only about 12 percent of our high school graduates currently pursue training at a community or technical college. Additionally, 72 percent of Louisiana students are enrolled in four-year institutions and 28 percent in two-year schools, compared to averages in other southern states of 55 percent of students in four-year schools and 45 percent in two-year schools. This has resulted in our colleges having the second highest dropout rate in the South.
"To align our education system with our workforce needs, we dramatically transformed the way we train our people, including creating a Day One Guarantee that guarantees our workers are ready to work on their very first day or we will retrain them for free. We also launched a new workforce development program, invested in higher ed infrastructure and improved our dropout prevention programs. We can no longer afford to admit students that are not prepared to complete four-year programs -- only to have them drop out or fail out with thousands of dollars in debt. That will not help our efforts to expand our economy though an educated workforce, but most importantly, it's simply not fair to these students to start them out in their careers with unnecessary debt and lacking the skills they need to succeed in the marketplace. We need to make sure students start out at institutions that best suits their ability and needs.
"We created Louisiana FastStart -- now ranked the top worker-training program in the country. FastStart has turned workforce development from a concern when businesses look at relocated to Louisiana into one of the top selling points for our state. To put it simply, Louisiana FastStart is doing for workforce development in Louisiana what the New Orleans Saints have done for professional football. We have re-defined the entire image and the world is taking notice."
Fourth, the Governor has worked with the Legislature to invest in education and implement new laws to help move Louisiana's education system forward. Governor Jindal said, "To help ensure our kids have a first-class learning environment as they prepare for jobs in the 21st century, we've worked with the Legislature to appropriate and to finance roughly half a billion dollars in critical higher education infrastructure investments across the state. This total includes general fund and capital outlay investments, as well as $225 million for Louisiana Community and Technical College campuses.
"We also improved and invested in effective dropout prevention programs. Only about 67 percent of students in Louisiana are graduating high school on time, and each year, more than 15,000 students drop out of school. Every year we also lock up around 15,000 people. That's not a coincidence. It's unacceptable and that's why we've worked to replaced outdated and ineffective initiatives like the GED Options program, where fewer than 10 percent of students actually earn a GED, with a program called Jobs for America's Graduates, or JAG, that has a 96 percent success rate in the past school year."
In just the recent legislative session, Governor Jindal signed a number of new laws to improve Louisiana's education system and ensure every Louisiana child has access to a quality education.
Governor Jindal said, "First, the Red Tape Reduction and Local Empowerment Act reduces red tape in the state's education system and provides schools with flexibility needed to improve student performance. The premise for this new law is simple. If there is a state law or regulation in place interfering with a local school's ability to improve educational outcomes for our kids, we should waive it and get it out of the way. Different areas of this state face different challenges in the classroom. Rather than try to pass laws in Baton Rouge that propose a one-size-fits-all approach, I decided to push a law that allowed local stakeholders to make the decision on what state regulations were standing in their way and give them a quick waiver process to get relief. After all, parents, teachers and other local educators know more about the kids in this area than lawmakers in Baton Rouge.
"Second, our Value Added bill uses student growth data as a component of teacher and administrator evaluations, which will enable school districts to identify and reward highly effective teachers and deliver targeted professional development to teachers and school leaders who need it. If a kid starts below grade level and ends the year at or above grade level, then teachers should be rewarded.
"Third, the LA GRAD Act helps our universities and community colleges graduate the kids they enroll in degree programs that will help them be successful in the workforce. This bill puts in place performance incentives at colleges to increase student performance, better meet state and regional needs and improve institutions' overall competitiveness, effectiveness, and efficiency.
"Fourth, we passed a new law that requires the state board of education to give letter grades to public schools and school districts so that parents can more easily understand how their children's' schools are performing."
RESULTS IN NORTHEAST LOUISIANA
The Governor highlighted a number of statistics citing the progress made in Northeast Louisiana, including:
Southern Business and Development magazine named Monroe the Small Market of the Year for 2009, based on business development wins.
* Trade and Industry Development magazine placed ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston among the top 15 new Corporate Investment projects announced in the U.S. for 2009.
* The Foster Farms project in Farmerville was recognized as one of the top 15 in the country for Community Impact by Trade & Industry Development magazine.
* HousingPredictor.com ranked Monroe the 7th best market in the NATION for real estate investors, largely based on recent job growth.
The Milken Institute ranked Monroe 18th for job growth from March 2008 to March 2009 on its Best-Performing Cities ranking.
In Northeast Louisiana, eleven economic development wins will result in 3,834 new direct jobs, 7,403 new indirect jobs, and nearly $781 million in new capital investment. Governor Jindal highlighted five of these new job wins:
* CenturyLink created 350 direct and 520 indirect new jobs in Northeast Louisiana. CenturyLink is now the fourth-largest telecommunications company in the U.S., recently joining Entergy and The Shaw Group on the list of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Louisiana. CenturyLink also recently announced their planned acquisition of Qwest, which will soon make it the third-largest telecommunications company in the U.S.
* Fortune 500 company ConAgra Foods recently announced it will construct the world's first large-scale processing facility dedicated to producing high-quality, frozen sweet potato products in Delhi, La., creating 500 new direct jobs, 1,300 new indirect jobs and up to $256 million in capital investment.
* The state's investment in the expansion of Gardner Denver Thomas's operations in Monroe will result in an estimated 230 new full-time jobs and 505 indirect jobs. Gardner Denver Thomas, a Gardner Denver Inc. subsidiary, will consolidate its Thomas Products Division to the company's Monroe location from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
* The state's investment in Foster Farms' acquisition of the Pilgrim's Pride plant saved over 1,100 direct jobs in the Ouachita Region and will support an additional 2,870 indirect jobs.
* The state's investment in the expansion of Computer Programs & Systems Inc. will result in an estimated 100 new direct jobs and an estimated 51 new indirect jobs.
Governor Jindal said that while these statistics show significant progress, these jobs wins are about more than just numbers. The Governor told the story of someone from Northeast Louisiana to show how these economic development wins are helping Louisianians.
Jim Bonner was born and raised in Northeast Louisiana. After college, he spent one year working in Texas before returning home. He then worked for almost 28 whole years with International Paper Company in Bastrop. He told us he thought he'd never look for another job while he worked at that plant, but Bonner was laid off when the plant shut down and he ended up spending about a year looking for a job. With his kids enrolled in school in the area and his mother still living in the area, Bonner wasn't going to consider looking for work outside the state.
Bonner's luck changed when early last year he got in touch with an old coworker who was assembling a team for the ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston plant being constructed in Delhi. At his old job, Bonner worked in purchasing, and Lamb Weston needed a manager to head up its purchasing department. Bonner soon got the job and started working with the Delhi plant in March of this year.
INVESTMENTS IN INFRASTRUCTURE
Governor Jindal said, "Part of our work to build a New Louisiana for our children means we have to create an environment where businesses can succeed, grow and expand. To do that, we've made strategic investments to help build up infrastructure all across our state."
Governor Jindal took office in January 2008, he has led investments totaling more than $3.5 billion in state and federal funds in transportation and road projects -- more than the past three governors combined during the same period of time.
In Northeast Louisiana, the Governor's investments include funding for renovations at ULM's Chemistry and Natural Science building, the ULM Library and Pharmacy School, the new LA Tech Business Building and the LA Tech Research Park. The Governor also supported funding for Delta Community College's new campus. Governor Jindal also worked with the Legislature to invest money for the Sparta Reuse Demonstration Project in West Monroe that will go towards the city's efforts to utilize unique technology to upgrade its wastewater system in order to have treated water reused at Graphic Packaging International, and to help offset the use of the Sparta Aquifer
BATTLING FEDERAL POLICIES TO CREATE JOBS
The Governor noted that job creation has been challenged by the national recession and the anti-job policies coming out of Washington, D.C. Governor Jindal stressed that he would not let Washington's job-killing policies get in the way of continuing to build a better Louisiana.
Governor Jindal said, "We have real challenges in our work to build a better Louisiana for our children. Unfortunately, some of our biggest challenges are bad policies coming out of Washington, D.C. that threaten Louisiana jobs. The possibility of cap-and-trade legislation caused tremendous concern and uncertainty among large industrial companies, resulting in lost opportunities for billions of dollars in new capital investment in Louisiana. In fact, Nucor -- a large company considering locating in St. James Parish - specifically told us on multiple occasions that issues related to cap-and-trade legislation represent the top obstacle to their project coming to Louisiana over Brazil or some other location overseas."
Additionally, President Obama called for the cancellation of NASA's Constellation program, which is resulting in the loss of more than 2,000 direct jobs in New Orleans, as well as the prevention of the creation of up to 2,500 more new jobs. And those losses don't even include the indirect job effects.
The Navy has also made changes to its shipbuilding procurement plan which has caused the closure of shipyards in the New Orleans area and Tallulah -- resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs.
More recently, the deepwater drilling moratorium, which was not even supported by the Administration's own handpicked experts, has already begun destroying jobs and is eventually expected to destroy roughly 20,000 Louisiana jobs.
Governor Jindal said, "When the President came down here and I told him our concerns about this arbitrary and capricious drilling moratorium -- which courts have already ruled against twice -- and the tremendous job losses it was creating in our state, he told me that those who lose their jobs could file for a BP check or an unemployment check. I told the President flat out -- our people don't want a BP check or an unemployment check -- they want to go back to work.
"By any reasonable measure, our economy has outperformed the South and the U.S. since the beginning of the national recession. However, we would certainly be in an even stronger position if we did not have to sustain these job losses due to federal government policies that hurt business growth and job creation."
MEETING FUTURE BUDGET CHALLENGES WITHOUT TAX INCREASES
When it comes to meeting budget challenges, Governor Jindal stressed that the solution in Washington is usually more spending, more borrowing and higher taxes. The Governor said this is the exact opposite approach his administration has pursued in Louisiana and reiterated his opposition to raising taxes on Louisiana people or businesses.
Governor Jindal said, "In Washington, the answer always seems to me more borrowing, more spending and higher taxes. Indeed, the national debt is on pace to double to $26 trillion over the next decade. Just this year's debt level alone equates to over $45,000 for every American, and $100,000 for every American family. They are literally spending our children's and grandchildren's money in our nation's capitol. Make no mistake -- that is not a sustainable model. That's the exact opposite of the approach we have taken and will continue to pursue in Louisiana.
"In Louisiana, we're doing more with less. Indeed, we've significantly cut government spending and reduced the size of government -- while pursuing innovate programs that are more effective at providing services for our people. By working to right-size state government, we've reduced the number of government positions by more than 6,300 since entering office. The budget for the current fiscal year is $4.2 billion less than the last fiscal year.
The FY 11 Budget includes total funding of $25.5 billion, a decrease of $4.2 billion, or 14.2 percent, compared to the FY 10 Total Budget of $29.7 billion.
"Because of the national economy and the decline in federal revenue, we face significant budget challenges in the upcoming year. The size of the problem may be different, but our approach will continue to be the same. So how do we overcome these challenges?
"I will not raise your taxes. We will not push this problem onto the backs of our people and our businesses and pass along more burdens to our children and our grandchildren. We know the way back to prosperity is not through higher taxes. The way to strengthen our economy is to empower our people. Like families and businesses all across Louisiana, we must continue to tighten our belt -- and raising taxes would only kick the problem down the field. We cannot hide from the challenges we face. That's why our budget challenges will require sacrifice and no government agency or program is off limits when it comes to reducing the size of government."